US invites ASEAN chiefs to try to counter Chinese influence

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US President Joe Biden welcomed Asean leaders to the White House on Thursday, May 12, in a charm operation. For two days, the United States and the leaders of Southeast Asian countries are to discuss ways to strengthen their economic and security relations. The Biden administration wants to show that the “Asian pivot” strategy remains a priority: a strategy initiated by Barack Obama to counter China’s influence in the Indo-Pacific.

From the first day of his meeting with the leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the American president took out his check: he pledged to devote a total amount of 150 million dollars to projects as diverse as infrastructure, maritime security and clean energies.

But this modest sum does not allow to compete with Chinawhich relegated the United States to second place, becoming the largest trading partner of Asean: in 2020 alone, trade between China and the bloc reached 685 billion dollars.

But Washington is counting on other investments, especially in the private sector. Joe Biden is expected to formally launch next week, during his visits to Tokyo and Seoul, a broad trade initiative: the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. An attempt to replace the trans-pacific partnership initiated by President Barack Obama and abandoned by his successor Donald Trump.

This summit is also an opportunity for Washington to encourage its ASEAN partners to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine. However, until now, for economic or political reasons, the overwhelming majority of member countries have refused to take sides.

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